SPAWNING

2024 FORT PECK

Huge thanks to Heath Headley, Fisheries Biologist for all work on Fort Peck and sending these articles to keep us all informed and thank you crew and all volunteers!

April 26th – Final update

The weather conditions have continued to cooperate in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Water surface temperatures have increased to 50-53F throughout our trap netting locations. These favorable water temperatures have allowed us to capture good numbers of walleye since the last update.

Nearly all female walleye captured over the last several days have been ripe. Very few greens have been collected. In addition, numbers of spent (released eggs) female walleye have increased indicating walleye spawning activity will be winding down.

We’ve managed to hold an egg-take each day (4/24 to 4/26) since the last update thanks to good numbers of ripe female walleye captured in the trap nets. These egg-takes on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday averaged close to 10 million eggs each day which quickly brought the total to approximately 83 million eggs for the season. This should provide enough eggs at the Fort Peck and Miles City fish hatcheries to meet fry and fingerling stocking requirements for 2024.

On behalf of the fisheries and hatchery staff at Fort Peck, I’d like to thank all the volunteers who assisted with this year’s efforts. Be safe on the water and best of luck fishing this year!

Photo:  Doug Voight with a big green female walleye on a nice day.

Photo:  FWP Jocko River hatchery manager Jeff Lammerding doing some northern pike wrangling!

Photo:  FWP Jocko River hatchery manager Jeff Lammerding showcasing the vibrant coloration of a shorthead redhorse. And yes, it’s a native fish species to Montana.

Photo:  Ron Hunziker and Bill Anderson with one of the last female walleye captured during the 2024 season.

April 23rd

It’s been a crazy roller coaster ride over the last several days at the walleye spawning operation on Fort Peck Reservoir! Windy and cold one day, calm and sunny the next. Thankfully, we’ve been on the warmer side of things recently and walleye are back cruising the shallows as water temperatures increased to around 47F as of today.

Numbers of walleye captured in trap nets have been gradually increasing since the last update. A large portion of the female walleye have been ripe and ready to release their eggs. Because of this, we’ve managed to hold two more egg-takes. We managed to collect 8.7 million eggs on Sunday (4/21) and approximately 6 million more on Tuesday (4/23).

These two egg collection efforts pushed our egg total to approximately 53.5 million eggs for the season. If these temperatures continue to hold and/or warm slightly, we should continue to see good numbers of walleye in spawning mode. This means there is a chance we could meet our goal of 60-70 million eggs towards the end of this week.

Photo:  FWP Aquatic Education Coordinator Jessi Gudgel with a green female walleye getting transported to the holding pens.

Photo:  FWP Becoming an Outdoor Woman and Boating Safety coordinator Kylie Kembel hoisting up a big female walleye from the trap nets. Photo:  A view from inside one of the trap nets.

April 19th

The weather has taken a turn for the worse in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir this past week. The winds have picked up and temperatures have dropped. Wind gusts were reported to be around 50 mph on Wednesday in the Big Dry Arm area. Because of these conditions, we pulled our trap nets Tuesday morning and hunkered down for a few days.

Thankfully, we were able to collect a few more walleye eggs on Monday and Tuesday before the cold front moved in. On Monday (4/15) we collected approximately 8 million walleye eggs and Tuesday (4/16) we collected 6.3 million more eggs. These two egg-takes brought our total to roughly 38.7 million eggs so far.

The winds finally subsided and we were able to reset all our trap nets today (4/19), so we’re back at it. However, the high winds and below normal temperatures have really mixed the water. Water temperatures were 41-42F degrees while setting our trap nets today which is roughly 10 degrees cooler than at the start of the week.

Photo: Zac Kremer with a big female walleye from one of the trap nets.

Photo: Sam Thompson gently stirring a batch of fertilized walleye eggs on a much nicer day.

Photo: Resetting a trap net (modified fyke net) on a cold and windy day.

April 14th

The weather has been very cooperative for us in the Big Dry Arm area of Fort Peck Reservoir. Water temperatures have steadily increased to 50-52 degrees in some of the shallow areas where the trap nets are located. This is very encouraging for walleye spawning activity.

Numbers of walleye captured per net have increased as well with the warming water temperatures. We’re continuing to see some good numbers of male walleye (and some big ones up to 26 inches) along with some green and ripe female walleye. Thanks to the increased numbers of ripe female walleye collected from the trap nets, we’ve been able to hold two more egg-takes since the last update.

On Saturday we collected 12 million and today (Sunday) we collected another 12.3 million more eggs. These two egg-takes brought our total to approximately 24.3 million eggs so far. This is a really good start to the 2024 season. However, it looks like a cold front is headed our way starting Tuesday afternoon. Winds are forecasted to gust from 34-46 mph and nighttime temperatures will be dropping down into the upper 20’s. There’s a good chance this could hamper our collection efforts for several days.

Photo: Cole Fink with a very nice green female walleye

Photo: Gabe Uy with a walleye almost as big as him!

Photo: Fish culturist, Matt Baxter, stripping eggs from a ripe female walleye.

Photo: Walleye eggs in the process of water hardening in cradles.

April 12th

It’s official, the 2024 walleye trap netting and egg collection effort is underway on Fort Peck Reservoir! The ice has finally receded and we’ve managed to get our gear in the water. Over the last several days, we’ve been able to get our spawning barges, holding pens, and some trap nets in the water to begin our operation. Today was actually our second day of checking nets and we’ve managed to collect a few fish along the way.

Water temperatures have been relatively cool throughout our trap netting locations due some windy conditions that have been frothing up the water. Water surface temperatures were around 47 degrees today in the upper Big Dry Arm area. We’ve seen some early indications that walleye spawning activity is starting to occur. We’ve captured some decent numbers of male walleye, which seems to be a typically pattern early in the spawning phase, along with some green (holding eggs) and occasional ripe (releasing eggs) female.

Due to a few ripe female walleye captured in trap nets and few that ripened in our holding pens, it looks like we could hold our first egg-take of the season in the next day or two. The weather forecast looks promising over the next several days, so let’s hope this helps with the walleye spawning activity.

Photo:  Jaxson Kemp with a big female walleye captured from one of the trap nets.


                                                  

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